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Monday, November 14, 2005

People in the blogosphere: Panthergirl

Panthergirl is Italian American and her mother couldn't cook.  For that reason alone I would have interviewed her. To many baby boomers in the boroughs and Long Island Sunday was Chinese one week, and heavy red sauce Italian the next week. 

I admit to having been an Italian/New York wannabe. Until I was in my teens I never met a Protestant.  The only Christians I knew were Catholic; usually Italian and I thought of them as like Jews but with better food. 

Panthergirl and I are baby boomers from the boroughs.  Yes my family moved to real Long Island when I was 12, but I would always be a girl from Queens in my heart.

Babyboomers seem to be blamed for every problem in the world.  When I envisioned this series I immediately thought of Panthergirl because I think she'll dispell a few myths.  A Dog's Breakfast, Panthergirl's blog feels like an old friend.  Her stories about her parents are must reads; Emma, her 20 year old daughter, and Lucas, her ten year old son, come across as vivid individuals.  Panthergirl throws in rescuing Greyhounds, other causes and politics into the mix because life is too short to be one-sided. 

Like my best friend, Lucia, she was married three times.  Lucia was widowed in her second marriage; Panthergirl was divorced from her third husband who later died.  He was her ten year old son Lucas's father. 

it was Lucas's idea to raise money for Katrina; he symbolizes an incredible generation, of compassionate caring kids who literally don't know what prejudice is, to me.

I am writing this series to show how ordinary people, regular bloggers, can make a difference in big and small ways.  Panthergirl is my kind of down home, though nobody has ever called me "sarcastic;" uh, think they put the sarcasm virus in the our famed water.

How did you have an Italian mother who would couldn't cook?

What's more incredible is that HER mother was a great cook. My mother has absolutely no patience for anything, which translated into a very sloppy cooking style. I can cook, well, I just don't do it very frequently.

Where in Brooklyn did you grow up?

City Line/Cypress Hills. Almost exclusively Italian/Irish and Catholic. There was one "Protestant" church in the neighborhood, but I couldn't even tell you what denomination.

How do you manage to incorporate politics into your blog without getting trolled to death?

I  have no idea. I think it's because I've made myself into a human being FIRST. There are people who vehemently disagree with me, politically (Like Madam Butterfly) but had already decided they liked me as a person. It makes for some heated discussions, but no flames.

You went to Catholic school, what turned you off to Catholicism?

In general? Hypocrisy...just like most other fallen Catholics. Specifically, the incident at  age 10 when I had finally summoned up the courage to "confess" the sexual abuse I was experiencing. I never got to spill the details because the priest lambasted me for not having been to confession for 6 weeks.

I also questioned a nun who was teaching us about the evils of Communism: "They have to dress alike and think alike..." asking her how that differed from sitting, uniformed, in Catholic School.

Do you believe in religion?  In spirituality?  If yes to either or both how do they affect your day-to-day life?

I do not subscribe to organized religion. Maybe it's flippant of me, but I see it as nothing more than "easy answers to hard questions". What's wrong with humankind just admitting that we don't KNOW what happens after death, for example? It would make for a very brief Catechism class: "Who made me?" "I don't know. Class dismissed."

I wouldn't call myself a particularly spiritual person, but I did have an amazing experience during a healing by a Nakota medicine woman who was going to marry me and my 2nd husband. It was his idea, and I thought it was pretty out there but she was unreal. It's where my "panthergirl" persona comes from. She put me into a trance where I saw myself lying in the desert, protected by a black panther and a boa constrictor, whom she deemed my animal spirit keepers. I've always worn black, even as an adolescent. My parents had even let me paint a wall in my room black. So, it seemed right.

In general, I call myself a "Golden Ruler". Who needs religion when you have the Golden Rule? It's the only thing I've ever needed to teach my kids, too.

You said that your father voted for George Wallace but then became more liberal.  That struck me a bit unusual as most people from our parents generation became more conservative with age, except for my mother who ended up totally radical, but...

I wouldn't say he became more liberal. He became a Democrat when he saw that the Republicans were screwing with Social Security. He did lose a lot of his racist leanings as he got older, though. Growing up, the "n word" was commonly used by my father and in my neighborhood in general. However, I also grew up in the same house as my immigrant grandparents (maternal) who never had a bad word to say about anyone. Thankfully I subscribed to their attitude towards people of other races and religions.

Why did your father like Wallace?

Because in 1964, my father had very racist attitudes in GENERAL. However, and somewhat ironically, there were black people he knew from his mail route that he liked very much.

When you were growing up was politics discussed in your family?

Oh yes. Although I wouldn't use the word "discussed". ;)

Was politics important to your father?

I would say so, yes.

Was there a single incident that made you political?

I was very aware of the Vietnam war, and oddly enough in 4th grade I started a political movement for LBJ against Goldwater in the school yard. To the tune of "When the Saints Go Marching In", we'd sing: "We hate your guts...we hate your guts...oh Gold-wa-ter we hate your guts! Don't vote for him on November thi-ird...Gold-wa-ter we hate your guts!" and of course the second verse was about LBJ and how we "love your guts".

Did you have family political fights?

Very much so, especially once I became a teenager and fiercely anti-war. My father had fought in WWII and was very much of the "America Love It or Leave It" mentality in the late '60s. I was a total hippie peacenik, but I did write to soldiers in Vietnam. There was one in particular that exchanged letters with me for months, and then they just stopped. It broke my heart.

Fights over the generational divide that was so big then?

During the Vietnam era? Combine that with the sexual revolution and the woman's movement and you have a generational powder keg. And I was more than happy to throw a match in there at every opportunity. Drove my parents crazy.

As a Brooklyn born baby boomer did you feel entitled to a better life than your parents had?

I felt entitled to nothing. I'm not sure what you really mean by this question, but people like my parents subscribed to the "I walked ten miles to school while eating thumbtacks for breakfast, so what are YOU complaining about" philosophy. We never felt that they wanted more for us. On the contrary, I felt a lot of resentment from my mother in particular if it seemed that I was happy or having fun.

Did you feel any special entitlement at all?

See above.

Do you remember Kennedy's assassination?  Do you and your sister who would have been about 17 then ever discuss it? Do you remember your parents, relatives, neighbors etc talking about it?

I remember it vividly. I was in 3rd grade, and we were shuttled across the street to church to pray because the President had been shot. While we sat there, the priest received a note that JFK was dead. I remember walking outside in a daze...my father had come to pick me up (which was really unusual) and I was supposed to have taken an accordion lesson that day (ok, you can stop laughing now) but he said I didn't have to go. I went home and didn't leave the TV for the next several days. Sometimes I'd be sitting there alone, glued, which is where I was when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV.

Both of my sisters talked about it, but my most vivid memory was of my mother coming home from work at a factory where her boss had said "Good!" after hearing the news. That horrified me.

Beatles, Rolling Stones or neither?

Both, but I was completely and totally enamored with the Beatles. I can remember watching them on Ed Sullivan like it was yesterday. However, the first song I remember slow-dancing to was "As Tears Go By"...

Do you associate music with politics?  If so who and why?

Yes, because of Woodstock mostly. I begged to go to the concert but because I was only 14, there was no way.

Saw in your blog that before you began blogging you were involved in cause oriented chat rooms.  Did that prepare you for meeting people who are very different than you politically?  (I was clueless.  Thought that everybody argued politics but still basically liked each other, and didn't judge based on moral/values)

It amazed me how many people out there have conservative viewpoints unlike anything I had ever encountered in my real life. I grew up in Brooklyn, but started working in Manhattan at age 16. I met intelligent, sophisticated, educated people who influenced me greatly. There is little to prepare you for battling in a chat room with someone who beats her children with an extension cord and thinks that's a good idea.

How are you able to put politics in your blog without getting tons of comments judging you on your personal life?

Well, I will tell you that when I was posting on AOL message boards (in topics like WAHM vs. SAHM) people had NO problem judging me on my personal life. I think people are a TAD less likely to attack what someone posts on a blog because it's their own domain (so to speak). It's not a public forum in the same way a message board is. I actually got kicked off a Greyhound Rescue message board for having political views that differed from the board admin's. That's what drove me to blogging.

Has blogging and the Internet in general changed the way you view America and Americans?

In some ways it has made me sadder. I never realized just how far apart many of us are in terms of human values. I realize my view of America has been skewed because I'm a big-city chick. But still, my bubble has been burst.

Do you feel that you're able to change the way some people think of New Yorkers?

Hm, probably not. I'm pretty sarcastic which is what many people think of as being "very New York".

I believe that you personally are doing a lot (in the blogosphere) to help change and close the great divide.  Do you think so? What do you think there is about you that allows you to do this?  (If you feel uncomfortable answering this; if you don't mind, I'll put something in the intro about it.)

I honestly believe that because my blog did not start as a political one, I've put myself out there as a human being first. There are several bloggers who couldn't disagree with me more, politically, but had already decided that they liked me. It's much harder to flame a person you like. (It's the same reason I think that homophobes need to actually MEET gay people...know them personally. It makes hating them as a group much more difficult.)

What did you think of Clinton?

Loved him. Figuratively.


Like her, but while I think I'd love to have dinner with Bill, I'm not sure Hilary is quite as accessible. Figuratively, of course.

The impeachment?

Absolutely ludicrous. Look, Clinton did a stupid thing. I mean you don't blow the President unless you can TELL someone about it. But an impeachable offense? Even lying about it? Please. If lying is the criteria, then Bush should be impeached  eleventy-seven times.

How did 9/11 impact on your life?

In far too many ways to list here, but I posted recently that it changed in one small but significant way: I turn the television on immediately upon wakening. If I see commercials, I know that we are still relatively ok.

What is your biggest memory of it?

The eerie silence in the following days. Just like when the electricity goes out in your house and you never realized that the refrigerator had made quite that much noise.

How did you explain it to Emma?  Lucas?

Emma was 16 and Lucas was 6. Clearly Emma knew exactly what had happened. Lucas kept talking about the buildings falling down, and the hardest part was explaining that there were people in those buildings. But I also kept telling them that we should not be overcome with hate for any group of people. The old "golden rule" came in very handy, once again.

How did you personally feel during the London bombings and Katrina?

The London Bombings affected me viscerally because I took the subway for so many years in NYC and could imagine what the panic and horror would have been like. I was on the train one day when someone pulled a gun...everyone started to rush the doors, but we hadn't gotten to the station yet. It was terrifying, and no shots were fired.

Katrina? Horror...heartbreak...anger. I've always protected my children from seeing truly awful things on the news. But Lucas and I were on vacation, staying in a hotel room, and I really wanted to see what was going on. As a result, he saw too. In an ironic twist, seeing those images...the ones I wouldn't have wanted him to see...was what drove him to do his one-child fundraiser that has now resulted in $2000 in donations (matched 2-for-1 by my company, so that's one kid raising $6000).

As a single mother, and a double single mother to Lucas living in the New York metro area, what are the most important things that you feel can impart to your children right now?

Self-sufficiency, flexibility, and strength of character. Emma once said that her life has been crazy but never boring. Lucas thinks it would be dull to be "normal".

Obviously you've done things very right when it comes to raising your children.  Aside from not wanting to be like your parents, what do you think you've been doing that allows you to do this?

Probably establishing a good balance between "parent" and "friend". And humor has gotten us through almost everything. My daughter, now 20, will still hold my hand when we're out in public together. We can listen to the same music, laugh at the same jokes... she tells me things that sometimes make me cringe, but I also relish the fact that she's so open with me. Lucas is incredibly sensitive and loving, and I can make him laugh so hard that he'll pee in his pants (it just happened the other night).

Why was it so important to Lucas to raise money for people who suffered in Katrina?

Thankfully, few children experience the devastating loss that Lucas has. Losing his dad two years ago, when Lucas was only 8, has made him very sensitive to the misfortune of others.

First thought that enters your mind to the next several words/names  (Realize that you don't live in the city now.)

Viet Nam? The Draft. Nixon? Crook. Bloomberg? Cold. RudyG? Misguided on some issues, but effective after 9/11. Bernard Kerick? Competent* moustached creep. Pataki? No real opinion. Dobson? Dangerous. Frist? Delay? Unfortunately, those two personify the Republican party for me. Robertson? Complete whackjob.  W? Disgusts me beyond description. The radical right? Dangerous. The Supreme Court? Remains to be seen. I do have a problem with the concept of "lifetime jobs". Roe V Wade? At risk. Affirmative action? Still necessary... how sad. The woman's movement? Still necessary...how sad.

Coming to adulthood during the second or really the third wave of feminism how did it affect your working life?

LOL... well, I did a whole post about the sexist jerks I worked for over the years.  Probably the most prominent experience was applying for a job in print sales when the manager said, "You'll never succeed. Women will hate you and men will just want to get into your pants."

Your personal life?

One of the primary tenets of my parenting style is non-sexist childrearing. I absolutely cannot stand gender stereotyping, and truly believe that there are more differences AMONGST people of the same gender than there are between the genders.

What do you view as the biggest threats to your life now?

Driving on the Merritt Parkway. Oh, and bird flu. ;)

You travel for business often; does it hurt when you see prices in other places?  (I took pictures of prices in "expensive" parts of California because I knew my girl friends would never believe that a mani/pedi in La Jolla was $22--every day)

Well, it amuses me mostly. Although it does hurt to know that owning a house with a yard is something I'll probably never be able to do while living in this area.

Do you feel that the election results signify a real change in America?

The Presidential election? I think it signified a clear schism which may have been closed a bit by the recent fuckups (that people couldn't ignore) by the administration. Hard to say.

Aside from technology and other changes like that, what do you think is the single difference between the America you grew up in, and the America that your children are growing up in?

I don't know how many 4th graders are marching around the schoolyard singing political songs.

Emma and Lucas are ten years apart.  That's basically a generation.  What's the biggest difference that you see between the two generations of kids? How do the parents differ?  Not going to ask you if you're more tired raising Lucas; you appear to have endless energy

Honestly, it doesn't feel like a generational difference. They are very different kids... Emma is somewhat more self-centered, Lucas sensitive to a fault. Neither are money-driven, both love music and art (extremely eclectic tastes for both), both are rabid readers.

The similarities between them probably stem from the fact that their dads were both artists with ADD.

Aside from money, what's the single thing you would want to leave to your children?

Extraordinarily great memories.

If you had the power and the ability how would you change America?

OK, this may sound really silly... but do you ever watch "Wife Swap"? They take women from families that  could-not-be-more-different and swap them for 2 weeks. Almost 100% of the time, what starts out as "Oh my god these people are horrible/nuts/immoral/assholes " turns into the glimmers of understanding if not embracing of at least some of each others ideas and values. Once again, it's about knowing people as individuals-- real people instead of generalized demographics-- that creates empathy and compassion. It's the cliché mocassin-walking concept. If people in this country could overcome their fears of those who are not like them, and actually spend time getting to know each other, I think a lot of the gaps could be narrowed if not filled. Maybe blogging does that a bit

*I should have re-asked the question about Kerick, because personally he's in my book of evil sicko's.  But he was competent after 9/11 and that's when most people remember him from.  Remember I asked for the first thing that came to mind.  And I defy anybody to have an opinion about Pataki.

Posted by Pia Savage at 12:01 AM in Miscellaneous, Weblogs | Permalink


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Thanks for the opportunity, guys! It was a lot of fun. Hope people enjoy reading it.

Posted by: panthergirl | Nov 14, 2005 8:13:02 AM

Keep shaking Panthergirl, one question though, what were you thinking when you answered "competant" to Bernard Kerick?

I work in NYC and that man was a low down crook if I ever saw one. Damn his career kinda reflects Bush's whereas most of the shit the man achieved he had handed to him.

Regardless of the prostitute mom and shit the man was/is a thug.

Nice interview though!

Posted by: The Bastard | Nov 14, 2005 10:40:00 AM

Bastard: You're right about Kerick. I read Kerick but was thinking of the other guy...whose name escapes me right now. Kerick is the mustacheod creep.

Maybe pia can change my answer to "mustachioed creep"?

Posted by: panthergirl | Nov 14, 2005 10:43:46 AM

Panther girl sounds like an interesting person and the interview gives me another perspective on things past. It's always nice to see other people's views, especially retropectively as in this case.

Thanks for the interviews pia they are interesting to say the least.

Posted by: cooper | Nov 14, 2005 10:46:26 AM

To make a long story short, I worked for a printer at the time of 9/11 that produces the PBA's quarterly magazine and we had thousands of police photographs to go through to put together the special addition quarterly for 9/11 and that fucker, Kerick, held up the release of the memorial until his book was released because his book claimed it had "never before released photo's" of 9/11. The same pictures that would be in the PBA's memorial quarterly.

He is scum and all he wanted to do was make a profit instead of honoring the fallen.

One word for him, dick!

Posted by: The Bastard | Nov 14, 2005 10:52:21 AM

Kerick's ex-lover, Judith Regan, super editor/publisher, had the NYPD look for her jewelry that she was convinced people in the media (Fox news cameramen, I believe)stole.

They weren't allowed to leave until searched. She found the jewelry in her pocketbook, I think

Forget exactly how many people in the police she tied up doing this, and how long it took

But I think that forgetting who Bernard Kerick is for a hot second is a blessing

Posted by: pia | Nov 14, 2005 11:01:25 AM

Great interview! I like Panthergirl!

I think I can understand the Wallace thing a little. For all the hate and venom that spewed out of the old Dixiecrats, they were Progressives when it came to the Social State - at least for White People. Once the Dixiecrats were abandoned by the Democratic Party, their supporters split. Some became Democrats and shed the racism (at least in mixed company - but most really seemed to have put it behind them), and the rest (most) became Republicans and shed the Progressivism (and just pretended to shed the racism in mixed company).

Posted by: Jersey McJones | Nov 14, 2005 1:53:34 PM

Panthergirl, great interview!

Have two questions for you.

(1). What is your favorite porn site?

(2). At what age did you lose your virginity? And is it true that Catholic girls start much too late?

Posted by: Treason | Nov 14, 2005 2:15:05 PM

Treason while I know that Panthergirl can and will answer for herself, have some questions for you:

How does it feel to be the charter and sole member of the losers club?
Nah, I think I will stick with this one

Posted by: pia | Nov 14, 2005 2:37:52 PM


You're right. I was waiting to see who would answer for Pantergirl first and all my money was on you:)

Pia wrote: Treason: "How does it feel to be the charter and sole member of the losers club?"

It feels great Pia! Would you like to join? There are no membership dues and the best thing about MY club is then your party gets to control the Presidency, House and Senate, and the majority of Govenorships. We don't have to bitch and moan about anything (or lie)!

Posted by: Treason | Nov 14, 2005 3:04:54 PM

So then, LOSERS control the Presidency, House and Senate and the majority of Governorships? (I mean, I knew that...just surprised to see anyone admit it).

And right now, the GOP has the market cornered on lying. As Bill Maher put it: The only thing Clinton leaked was on a Jewish girl's dress!

Posted by: panthergirl | Nov 14, 2005 3:40:08 PM

Yeppers...us loser's control everything! How sweet it is to be a loser and control everything!

Oh, before you want to start pointing the fingers at lying y'all should try looking in the mirror. Obviously, the majority of American's can tell who the real liars are... Just look at the past Presidental elections and yes, everything else.

If a Democrats lips are moving, THEY'RE LYING!

Posted by: Treason | Nov 14, 2005 3:55:22 PM

Pia, another great interview. Thanks. I've seen Panthergirl on your site but didn't know how funny she is. Panthergirl, you're pretty funny.

Posted by: Doug | Nov 14, 2005 4:13:07 PM

Thanks, Doug! I try to mix it up on my blog... funny, poignant, snarky...you know, the whole gamut. If you check out the Fall Preview entry (http://thedogsbreakfast.blogspot.com/2005/08/since-networks-are-in-fall-preview.html) you'll get a sense of what's to come this "season". ;)

Posted by: panthergirl | Nov 14, 2005 4:54:38 PM

What a fantastic interview panthergirl...You are so articulate, and very sensitive like your son...and I happen to agree with just about everything you say....so in my view this was a brilliant interview with a brilliant interviewee!
Thanks for linking us to this very VERY satisifying read....

Posted by: OldOldLady Of The Hills | Nov 14, 2005 11:48:18 PM

Silly me, I've been reading PG for some time now and didn't realize she was a fellow IA girrrrllll. No wonder she seemed familiar.

Great interview. Thanks!

Posted by: lisa | Nov 16, 2005 11:14:31 AM

Really interesting interview. I agree that knowing someone personally, and liking them, makes it harder to dislike or disagree with them.
I'm a little to the right of you politically I suspect, and have a more defined sense of faith and spirituality, but I agree with many of your views/attitudes.
Sure can't beat the Golden Rule but I like to remember that Jesus put it best, phrasing it in the positive, "Do unto..." rather than the negative "Don't do unto ..."
I like JFK but was only 2 when he died. I remember Bobby and MLK dying. But Sep 11 was my sit and watch the TV for days experience. I have a picture of myself with a friend on top of the towers taken in 1988. Ironically I've lost touch with this friend and phone calls to her parents always result in them hanging up on me. She was an actress, a sensitive, arty, neurotic sort of girl and I have an awful feeling that she may have killed herself.She was from Brooklyn, her family from Connetticut. I'm from Western Australia. We worked together at summer camp in upstate NY in the early 80's.
I'd love to know what happened to her.
This is a wild long shot but her name is Cindy Kubik. Who knows, maybe a reader somewhere in the blogosphere will know her!
Take care

Posted by: marcus | Nov 19, 2005 8:32:56 AM

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